Electronic Templates Help Family Meetings in the ICU

Holding family meetings when patients are in intensive care can benefit patients, family, and caregivers. A research team reports on the electronic templates it is developing to keep records of what happens in those meetings.

When patients are in intensive care, scheduling family meetings can make the ordeal easier for the patient and the family.

In research presented at the American Thoracic Society meeting in Denver, CO, Thanh Huynh Neville, MD, of the Ronald Reagan University of California Medical Center in Los Angeles and colleagues report on using electronic medical records to document the sessions.

“Adequate documentation of meeting content and outcomes is critical for assuring that patient preferences are appropriately addressed and aligning the ICU team and other services around the care plan,” she wrote.

The team developed 2 electronic templates to use to record information.

The templates were tested on 135 patients and their families. All had “day 1” notes and 32 patients were in the ICU long enough to have notes through “day 5.”

The information recorded included the name of the “decision maker” for the patient, resuscitation status, and whether there was an advance directive in place.

The average time spent at the family meeting was 25 minutes. An ICU attending physician was present at almost all of the meetings.

The team said that the most commonly covered content at the sessions was information about the patient’s diagnosis, current status and prognosis.

They concluded that “Electronic medical record templates are feasible to implement and likely to support improved documentation of family meetings,” and that the data recorded “provide important direction for quality improvement efforts" for caregivers.

But the research also showed there is a need for greater attention to documenting advance directives.

“Challenges remain to fully leveraging the potential of the electronic medical record for supporting clinical processes,” the team said.